City residents in revolt

Thandazile Mhlongo (centre) heckles Mayor Mzimkhulu Thebolla during a community protest in Richmond Crest yesterday over the prolonged power outage in that suburb and several others. Read about repairs to the substation on page 3PHOTOS: Moeketsi Mamane
Thandazile Mhlongo (centre) heckles Mayor Mzimkhulu Thebolla during a community protest in Richmond Crest yesterday over the prolonged power outage in that suburb and several others. Read about repairs to the substation on page 3PHOTOS: Moeketsi Mamane

Protesters in different parts of the city set up barricades blocking roads on Monday to demand the restoration of electricity.

Residents from Richmond Crest and Southgate said they had been without power since last Thursday. The protests kept the police busy as major routes such as Richmond, Alexandra and Chief Mhlabunzima roads were barricaded with burning tyres and logs.

Residents said the outage had cost them dearly as their frozen food had gone off while they had to buy gas cylinders to cook and heat water for bathing. “My children are supposed to be attending online classes but they can’t because the desktop is not working and the laptop is flat,” said Anna Ngwenya.

She said she also has an elderly relative in the house who is diabetic and has recently stocked up on her insulin, which needed to be kept in the fridge.

Residents said the power outages also exposed them to criminals as their electric fences, alarms and motorised gates were not working.

“As things stand if something happens to our properties the insurance companies will not pay. Our claims will be declared invalid because the alarms are off, the motorised gates are on manual and those with electric fences are not protected right now,” said Nhlanhla Mdunge.

When the City’s leadership, led by Mayor Mzikhulu Thebolla, went to address the crowd next to Southgate Spar, they were heckled and sworn at.

Thebolla said the Bisley area had been impacted by Thursday evening’s blast at the Mason Primary substation, which affected several areas, including Ridge, Scottsville extension, Westgate and Pelham.

He said the matter had been reported to the police for further investigation as foul play was suspected. “We humbly apologise to our communities for the inconvenience caused.”

He said the electricity team was working on temporarily restoring electricity, but there would be load-shedding until the problem was permanently resolved. “Those who say they suffered losses because of the power outage must lodge a claim with the municipality so that we can also claim from our insurance company.”

Meanwhile, vehicles travelling from as far as Kokstad, Queensburgh and Port Shepstone were stuck on Richmond Road for hours, forcing some to turn back while others used backroads through the townships to get to their destinations. Siyabonga Cele and Lucky Mbanjwa were travelling from Durban to pick up a load from Mooi River, which they had to deliver to Utrecht. “We have deadlines to meet because tomorrow we need to be somewhere else. Now we’ve spent more than five hours here sitting on the side of the road. There’re not even ablution facilities or a spaza shop around to buy a cup of coffee,” said Mbanjwa.

A team with a truck carrying an abnormal load feared they would not be able to make it to Middelburg, Mpumalanga, in time before their travel permit expired. Gift Mdunge, who was driving the accompanying vehicle, said their biggest challenge was the permit, which expires today.

“We should be in Newcastle this evening if we’re going to make it to Middelburg on time, but as things stand I doubt we’re going to make it. The problem is that once the permit expires we have to pull over and stop until we get a new one, but the application for it takes a minimum of 72 hours,” he said.

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